Exclusive: Senedd leader talks Welsh F&B sector as more than 200 new products unveiled

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Lesley Griffiths praised the progress made by Welsh food and drink manufacturers. Credit: Food & Drink Wales
Lesley Griffiths praised the progress made by Welsh food and drink manufacturers. Credit: Food & Drink Wales

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Food and drink manufacturers from across Wales unveiled more than 200 new products at a trade show in Newport, held from 25 to 26 October 2023.

BlasCymru / TasteWales is a bi-annual event organised by the Welsh Government that welcomes food and drink firms from across Wales to meet with industry professionals from around the world.

The wide variety of products launched at the event were on display in the centre of the main hall, while more than 100 manufacturers occupied stalls situated throughout the room where they could meet with the retailers, wholesalers and foodservice companies that were in attendance. During the event, Food Manufacture spoke with directors from bakeries, cheese makers, breweries and many more organisations in order to a greater understanding about the extent of the sector.

The trade show is designed to help showcase the breadth of food and drink manufacturers in Wales, which range from micro-businesses to SMEs to larger firms that employ thousands of people. The Welsh Government has put in place several initiatives to promote food and drink production throughout Wales, such as its cluster network and the support provided by its three food centres, which are operated by Food Innovation Wales​.

The value of 'brand Wales'

Figures released over the summer show that between 2020 and 2022, Welsh exports increased by 44% compared to 16% for the UK as a whole, and the Welsh Government is keen to open up even more new markets going forward.

Lesley Griffiths, minister for rural affairs and North Wales and Trefnydd (leader of the Senedd), was in attendance throughout the event and told Food Manufacture that the Welsh Government feels a responsibility to support the nation’s food and drink industry because it has a “great story to tell​”.

BlasCymru / TasteWales is our flagship event where we bring the world to Wales​,” Griffiths said.

I have met with buyers today from Japan, Taiwan, Switzerland and Germany, so it is really important that we give our food and drink manufacturers the opportunity to display the amazing products they have developed​.

People are very interested in provenance nowadays and we know the value of brand Wales​”.

The Government initially set a target to grow the Welsh food and drink sector to £7bn by 2020, but after achieving that a year early has created a new target for 2025. Reflecting on the progress made, Griffiths highlighted the number of initiatives that have been put in place to assist the industry.

One of the reasons that we have developed so many small food and drink producers in Wales is because of the support that is in place​,” she explained.

When I talk about support, I don’t just mean financial support. We offer so much technical expertise through the Helix Project and our food innovation centres and this offers businesses a level of insight they wouldn’t have access to otherwise​.”

While the industry has certainly enjoyed success in recent years, recruitment remains a challenges facing food and drink businesses throughout Wales.

“Talking to producers, the skills shortage is one of the biggest challenges they face as we saw a lot of people leaving the sector after the UK left the EU,” ​Griffiths explained.

We need to work with food and drink manufacturers to understand the skills that are needed and find ways to fill them in the future.”

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